Earth's Great Symphony

Courtesy of Paul Winter

Earth's Great Symphony

Award-winning saxophonist Paul Winter turns a fascination with bird migration and the natural world into music about flyways.

By Michele Wilson Berger
Published: 03/16/2012

For two decades Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Paul Winter has been fascinated by birds' yearly migrations. Working with colleagues, Winter researched the phenomenon and translated it into music. Flyways, a melodic tale of birds moving from Europe and the Middle East over the Rift Valley into wintering grounds in southeast Africa, comes to New York on March 16 and 17 (the Flyways album will be available in fall). He'll follow that with a sequel about North American flyways--a collaboration with the National Audubon Society and BirdLife International--slated for album release in 2013.

What inspired you to feature wildlife in your work?

My involvement with the music of the natural world began around '68, when I heard the songs of the humpback whales. The recordings of the whales really opened the door to what I think of now as the greater symphony of the earth.

You've said you're not a birder. Why compose music about bird migration?

In Israel, in the early '90s, this man came up to us after a concert. He was a researcher and asked if we'd be interested in seeing a video of his work flying with migrating birds. I was intrigued.

The next year he arranged for us to come back and fly in a motorized glider from Galilee, in the north of Israel, with the migrating storks. We would go up in the glider--piloted by a former Air Force pilot--turn off the motor and soar with the storks. Just like the first time I [heard the] whales, this was a life-changing experience. From that came a vision to do a musical chronicle of the birds' journey.

How do you translate bird migration into music?

One aspect is to find in some of the bird songs a theme that we can play on our instruments and develop in a musical way. So there's that relationship between what we play and the bird song. [For birds that aren't vocal], you can aspire to evoke the emotion--that slow-motion, graceful, spiral-ballet of the birds when they're soaring.

Is Flyways about education, pure musical enjoyment, or something else altogether?

It's about many things. Awakening awareness is one of the first things on our minds. Celebrating the miracle of this migration, which is extraordinary. Making people more aware of that and how astounding it is that these birds can converge--thousands of members of the species, like storks or honey buzzards--on the same day and head south together.

Can you describe your relationship with Audubon?

Audubon sponsored our concert at Carnegie Hall in September '78, when we were on tour with a wolf, at the time of our Common Ground album. We had the wolf on stage and asked the audience to acknowledge the wolf's millions of years of musical heritage by howling to him. He put up his muzzle and howled back. It was most likely the first time a wolf had sung in Carnegie Hall. Audubon was kind of there in the beginning of this work celebrating nature with music. [Editor's note: Winter was also the subject of a profile by field editor Frank Graham in the July-August 1978 Audubon, just after Winter released Common Ground.]

What is nature's takeaway lesson?

We Homo sapiens are the youngest of all the nine million species of life on earth. It's not a symbolic statement; it's literally true. All of those that are surviving now have found some way to live in harmony with their world or they wouldn't have survived. We haven't yet learned to do that. So the jury is out on our survival.

Magazine Category

Author Profile

Michele Berger

Michele Berger is Audubon magazine's Associate Editor and social media manager. Follow her on Twitter @MicheleWBerger. Follow the magazine on Facebook.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


First of all thanks for

First of all thanks for share.Your blog is really nice and unique also.

Really well created work you

Really well created work you have shared with us Thanks

I can see that you are

I can see that you are putting a lots of efforts into your blog. Keep posting the good work.Some really helpful information in there. Bookmarked. Nice to see your site. Thanks!

Thank you for another

Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.

This can be wherever you

This can be wherever you would possibly need writing essays helps. Recall, you would possibly moreover write your management essay on topics in business management simply once a well and deep analysis of the given or selected topic and submit it .

I really enjoyed the quality

I really enjoyed the quality information you offer to your visitors for this blog. I will bookmark your blog and have my friends check up here often.

There are some ways that a

There are some ways that a student will stand out from the remainder of the category. These smart students ar distinguished by their angle, intellectual skills. If you learn more about it. Please visit this website.

We very happy for that

We very happy for that Earth's Great Symphony. The answer to question What inspired you to feature wildlife in your work? is hard but you gave perfect explanation.

Its an interesting to read

Its an interesting to read about Earth's Great Symphony. Its an big news for me.

Very interesting discussion

Very interesting discussion glad that I came across such informative post. Keep up the good work friend. Glad to be part of your net community.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.